By Josh Brown
and Rob Kiser
Miami Valley Today
MIAMI COUNTY — Ohio’s American Legion may have canceled its 2020 baseball season.
But Troy Post 43 coach Frosty Brown and Piqua Post 184 coach Justin Jennings are still holding out hope, even now.
On Monday, Ohio’s American Legion — which, the month before, had kept the possibility of having a season open after the regional and national legion tournaments were all canceled — made the official announcement that it was canceling its 2020 baseball season.
The announcement, which also comes on the heels of the Ohio High School Athletic Association canceling its spring sports season, was likely prompted by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s newest orders last week keeping the state’s school buildings and facilities — including baseball diamonds — closed until June 30 due to the global pandemic, COVID-19. A large number of the state’s legion teams use their local high school’s baseball facilities.
But with their teams playing on public park fields, Brown and Jennings are still hoping to be able to play.
“We’re still going to try to figure out a way to do this,” Brown said. “There’s still a lot of ‘what ifs,’ of course. We’re hoping the governor opens things up a bit more by the end of the month, and I’m trying to create some tournaments to fill some of the voids. I’m getting the emails of all the legion coaches across Ohio and seeing what their plans are. I figured the sooner I can do that, the sooner we can figure something out.”
Jennings has spent his springs and summers on a baseball diamond for as long as he can remember.
But, what has taken place this spring is not so much about him, but what his players are going through as there is still uncertainty what kind of season — if any — Post 184 will have this summer.
“The reason I do this is for the kids,” Jennings said. “That is what it is about. I want them to experience life and go on to do great things.”
But, this is an experience he wishes they could have avoided.
“I tell kids all the time, when it is over, it is over,” Jennings said. “I have former players come up to me two or three years later and tell me, ‘Coach, I understand what you meant now.’ These kids didn’t just have it end, they had the season ripped out from under them. Some of them may have played their last game and they didn’t even know it.”
At this point, Jennings is just hoping to get his team some games.
“We had a schedule in place,” Jennings said. “I think our first tournament (at Wittenberg) was the only thing that had really been cancelled. We are just not sure what is going to happen right now. It is just going to depend on the rules and what we are allowed to do and when we are allowed to do it.”
Brown has already been in contact with Jennings and other local teams trying to salvage some games this year.
“I’ve got emails out to (Jennings) and to Greenville,” Brown said. “Sidney shut its team down for the year. Even though there’s no regional or state tournament, we still want to play. And hopefully, they’ll want to be in some of my tournaments, as well. I’m planning one for the end of July and calling it the ‘For the Love of the Game’ tournament. I’ve got a couple of round robin ideas, as well.
“I have to say, our kids are still positive.”
As for Jennings — as unusual as it is for him to be away from the diamond — whether it is watching prospective players in the spring or coaching in the summer, he has been spending less time on the diamond.
“When I went down there (to Hardman Field), it wasn’t just for baseball,” Jennings said. “I don’t go down there as much now, obviously. It is what it is. It is just an unfortunate situation.”
Jennings knows baseball will return at some point and knows this year’s players have an appreciation for the game more now.
He just hopes there will be some games this summer.
“I am hoping we will be able to at least get on the diamond a little bit,” Jennings said. “Hopefully, we can give these kids a chance to play some games — and give them something to remember from this season other than COVID-19.”
Because for Jennings, that is what it is all about — giving his players the best experience possible and preparing them for a successful future.
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